Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The 50-State Strategy

In case you missed the news, Democrat Paul Hackett lost the by-election in OH-02, but did extremely well in an extremely red district. (For details, look here.) In a Congressional district that the Dems lost by 44 points in the 2004 elections, Iraq War veteran Hackett lost this election by a mere 4 points, thanks in large part to a strong candidate who wasn't afraid to speak his mind, weak Republian opposition, and unprecedented support from the netroots.

If a serious effort can swing a race 40 points our way, there are few 2006 races that won't be competitive, but we've got to fight them all. We can't allow any more FL-07's or SC-03's, where the Republican wins by default because he's unopposed. My challenge to Qian and Bdean: If no one runs for the Dems in your district, file papers and run yourself.

Challenging every single district is important for three reasons. First and most obvious, you can't win a district you're not running in. Second, even if you would ordinarily have no reasonable chance of winning a district, you make your opponents defend home territory, which leaves them fewer resources to attack you where you're weak or where the race is close. And third, downticket support is important for Presidential races. Get somebody to vote for a Democrat now, and they'll be less afraid to pull the lever for a Democratic candidate in the future.

As for the rest of us in red ridings, it behooves us not to just sit back in 2006 when it looks like public opinion might finally be turning against the Republican party. NM-02 is only -20, and even ID-01/ID-02 are only about -40, not impossible to turn (which CD are you in, jocave?). Letters to the editor, political contributions, GOTV efforts, talking to your neighbours... s'all good, and all helpful. Even if you live in a heavily blue area like Massachusetts, CA-09, or MD-04, there's always something that can be done to help out the cause of the last major US political party that's grounded in reality. (As for Maryland, there's an important Senate race next year....)


Blogger Justin said...

I've actually been relocated to Michigan at the moment. I'd have to check my voter registration card to know which district.

I'm also not sure you would want me to run, even if it was possible. I'm not exactly a staunch Democrat-- I've never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, for example. Probably would have had I not screwed up absentee registration, though.

As for the lessons to be learned from the OH-02 election, I'm not sure that contesting every election is the right answer for the Democrats. It seems to me that this shows that the Democrats need to focus on finding candidates that have, gasp, a message that is understandable to the average voter. If they nominate more folks in the Gore/ Kerry mold that are policy wonks with the charisma of a sudried tomato, they are continue to get their butts handed to them. If they nominate folks like Hackett that seem to be able to express themselves with some conviction and that can put together a coherent message (hint: a 30 page policy paper on health care refor that everyone knows has no chance of passing is not a coherent message) they have a strong chance. Given that they are not going to find such a candidate for every district, I'd much rather see them concentrate on getting the few excellent candidates they can find elected than in funding token opposition in safe red districts.

If Democratic voters aren't sure whether they have a charismatic candidate in front of them, here is a simple test (which I have dubbed the Pelosi Test). Give the candidate Ms. Pelosi's rebuttal to the 2004 State of the Union speech, which at one point quotes John Kennedy. Give the candidate ample opportunity to practice and then ask the candidate to deliver the speech. If the candidate butchers the line as Ms. Pelosi did, that candidate might make an excellent strategist or a Chief of Staff. He might somehow manage to win in the conservative stronghold of Berkley CA. He is not, however, a candidate that should be run in a mildly competitive district. If, on the other hand, the candidate has some conception of the tone, phrasing, and flow of a speech, put his name on the ballot and put all the resources you can spare into that race.

8/04/2005 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Congratulations on becoming a Michigander. Tell us more!

You raise very good points, but I disagree on one key issue: sundried tomatoes have lots of charisma. Out of all the dry, shrivelled things that exist, sundried tomatoes are among the tastiest (and better than their un-sundried equivalent).

8/04/2005 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

The company I work for has a relatively long-term arrangement with a client in Troy MI, so I officially moved out here. Figured there wasn't much point in having an apartment in Boise that I only visited every few months.

While I agree that sundried tomatoes are among the more charismatic of the dried fruits and vegetables (they don't hold a candle to, say, dried mangos), I'd like to think that the major parties can find candidates that are slightly more interesting than dried produce. Berkley is free to elect Nancy "dried plum" Pelosi, but I'd hope that at least at the top of the ticket they'd be able to find someone at least as charismatic as George freaking W. Bush. If they could find someone that could give a competent rebuttal to the State of the Union, that would be a plus as well.

8/04/2005 11:39:00 AM  

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